Due to safety concerns regarding flights over Russia the two Japanese flag carriers All Nippon Airways (ANA) as well as Japan Airlines (JAL) have canceled a whole volume of flights to Europe this week.
The cancellations include both passenger and cargo flights and it’s unclear at this time which and how many flights the airlines plan to cancel or if there are alternate routes available to fly from Japan to Europe.
While other carriers ex Asia continue to fly the routes it seems the Japanese are extraordinarily careful when planning their routes to Europe and making the decision to either cancel them or reroute the flights.
As Reuters reported the cancellations started last Thursday and continue to stretch on:
Japan Airlines Co Ltd and ANA Holdings Inc cancelled all flights to and from Europe on Thursday and cancelled or rerouted flights on Friday as well, citing safety concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
ANA also started to cancel some flights due to run on Saturday.
The airlines, which normally use Russian airspace for their Europe flights, join a growing number of carriers that have cancelled or rerouted flights between Europe and north Asia in the wake of the crisis.
“We are continuously monitoring the situation, but given the present situation in Ukraine and the different risks, we have decided to cancel flights,” a JAL spokesperson told Reuters.
ANA Cargo’s website said the suspension of flights was due to the “high possibility of its operations not being able to overfly Russia due to the current Ukraine situation.” …
ANA and JAL operate about 60 flights per week through Russian airspace between Tokyo and London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Helsinki, according to a spokesperson for flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
Both JAL and ANA cancelled eight flights each carrier had scheduled for Friday. The impacted routes included those to London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Helsinki.
A Tokyo-Brussels flight due to carry vaccines on the return leg will be routed over central Asia, ANA said.
Japan Airlines said it planned to reroute one of its London flights on Friday heading eastward over Alaska, Greenland and Iceland rather than flying the usual westbound route over Russia. The flight will not require a fuel stop.
It cancelled flights to and from Helsinki, Frankfurt, Paris on Friday as well as a second London flight.
Avoiding Russian airspace presents a challenge for flights from Japan and to a degree from South Korea as well so airlines are now scrambling how to route their flights to still make it to Europe non-stop.
But the cancellations aren’t daily and not always to the same destinations either.
For example, here are some of the flights from Tokyo to Europe for tomorrow (Sunday):
This is only on Sunday. Most of the flights today and the day after did operate as scheduled but didn’t fly over Russia.
Some flights are canceled while others are operating. For example, Japan Airlines canceled one of their flights from Haneda to Frankfurt, JAL canceled their only flight from Narita. Paris and Helsinki were also canceled. One flight to London remains.
It will be rather difficult to foresee what is happening to these flights but at least right now some of the flights are still going so should one flight in the itinerary get canceled with a bit of flexibility it’s still possible to make the connection a day before/after.
These routing scrambled from Japan remind me of the early days of the pandemic but of course for totally different reasons. Avoiding Russian airspace, in this case, is mostly due to the sanction regime and to sort of run a boycott. It’s not out of safety concerns.
There are still some aircraft of big-name airlines (such as Emirates) that pass through Russian airspace every day and they certainly wouldn’t do so if there was any risk involved.